Wayne Rooney is set to make his return to English football on Thursday when Derby face Barnsley in the Championship.

The former England captain signed an 18-month deal to become player-coach with the Rams in August, but has been ineligible to play until the start of the January transfer window.

The 34-year-old has not featured since DC United's Major League Soccer play-off campaign came to an end in October, yet could be pressed into immediate action for a Derby side missing both Krystian Bielik and Tom Lawrence through suspension.

"If a player with the qualities, career and the experience of Rooney (is available), you have to be very happy and glad he is here, so I don't need a suspension to consider him in the XI to be honest," coach Phillip Cocu said in the Derby Telegraph.

"He's fit, he can start but he will need a few games. Expectation will be high when he starts playing but we have to give him a few games to build up his minutes and get in the team.

"So maybe not perfect from the start, but it's important he will get in the team as soon as possible so we get a certain shape in our team."

Derby will be looking to Rooney for a spark in the second half of the season, having endured a seven-game winless run before beating Charlton 2-1 on Monday thanks to a brace from Republic of Ireland Under-21 international Jason Knight.

Thursday's game will pit them against a Barnsley side unbeaten in five but still stuck in the relegation zone.

"Recently we've been doing well and picking up points," midfielder Alex Mowatt said on the club's website.

"They're games that we probably would have lost earlier on in the season. We've been picking up points or getting a late winner, so it's nice to get some points even if we're not playing as well.

"There's a togetherness as a team and wanting to win or draw games."